Six months of building sandcastles and digging fox holes in Zekistan and the conflict is starting to wear thin on my nerves, they had told us in staging that this was a three month operation but after the air strikes and the rebuilding they had extended deployment. Missed the start of the season for this game of soldiers. They had shipped Sgt Williams out of theatre and dumped Alpha with a new Bravo team, some kid fresh from basic called Thomas Randolph. Seems he had scored pretty well in aptitude but I hated those tests, seen too many ‘promising’ recruits fall apart when the lead begins to get airborne… can’t have another Bravo brought in if this kid bites it so I’d better make sure he sticks around… who knows he may even be good enough to cut it with Alpha after all.
Ten Hammers which is a rather aptly named sequel (we will explain later) is of course the follow up game to Full Spectrum Warrior, a squad based tactical modern shooter set in the NOT Iraq (CLEARLY Iraq) nation of Zekistan. Times have moved on for Pandemic as at this stage they edged closer and closer to going down the pan. Now when you make a sequel to a game you should adhere to one solid thing and that is that the sequel must improve upon the shortcomings of the previous game or it will fail. You can’t pull a sequel out and keep the same glaring issues as Capcom did with resident evil 6… thankfully this isn’t a botch job and Pandemic really took the feedback from the previous game on board but while fixing a lot of faults from the last game they have managed to bring in some new ones too… can’t win em all I guess.
after six months have passed since the start of the first we are still in the wonderful nation of Zekistan, now without a despotic regime in charge but instead having to contend with the government, the rebels and the mujahidin fighters in the area who don’t seem to have a whole lot of love for the peacekeeping coalition forces (that’s you) now the story in this game is a little weird and for full understanding I want to cover the 2nd , 3rd and 4th chapters first and leave the 1st chapter to last because the 1st chapter is actually the end of the and the everything else is pretext to that (it’s less confusing in game) chapter two starts off with my first peeve of this game and it’s the reference of the British as the ‘British royal army’ (it’s the only one that doesn’t have royal in the name) I mean that’s basic … that’s a mistake five seconds of google could have corrected, back to the narrative though and the chapter see’s the fire teams dispatched to assist the British who were assigned to take the Tien Hammir bridge (Tien Hammir … Ten Hammers … get it? Such an awful pun but I love it) this showcases briefly the games main plot driver which isn’t the squads you control but in fact is that of Commanding officer sergeant Eric Daniels. After the Tien Hammir bridge incident the British race expediently to assist Daniels in his calls for help. Over the course of the next two chapters you’ll be seeing a lot more of Daniels and his men in the story and thankfully unlike the first Full Spectrum Warrior this game really piles on the story, every mission you undertake has an end goal, investment and purpose.
The men you command have their own character and voice acting is done nicely, even the intro cinematic has more on offer than majority of the last game did. Through Chapter three you get a far better look at Daniels squad as you go through the three missions during which you’ll get a good variety of diversity from destroying weapons caches, storming enemy held buildings and finally getting to knock out some artillery positions (not before British command decides to airstrike the building with you inside I must add!) moving on from the death defying escape from British army over exuberance you reach the games climactic ending chapter. Chapter four by the stage you’ve reached it hasn’t really taken that long unless you played on authentic in which case you spent half the game getting a restart for a half an inch incorrect movement. The finale sees Daniels cut off from his men and attempting to orchestrate a new fireteam from whoever he can get a hold of in the middle of the uprising. The area is a real hell hole and Daniels hasn’t got a whole lot to work with. It’s right about this time though that we get to see some familiar faces from the first game in the form of private Ota and corporal Picoli who are rounded up by Daniels in a most heroic attempt to get the hell out of dodge with the wounded he has managed to save up until this stage. Daniels makes it all the way to the Tien Hammir Monastery where he radios in for extraction and at this time for the help of any squads who can hear him on the radio. In the end you see Daniels fight valiantly to secure a landing zone and get his men choppered out of the battlefield even throwing in a cheeky rpg moment to make it tense which leaves us with Daniels telling the Chinook to leave him behind in order to save the men he’d rescued along the way.
during the games four chapters of story you’ll get a great amount of time to get your teeth sunk into the new mechanics that have been added this time around. For the basics movement has been kept almost entirely the same as in the first game, you still don’t control the squad but instead issue orders and watch them play out from an over the shoulder view of the squad. The changes here come in bounding and movements like it. Instead of a singular option the fire team can now be split into two teams of two and move independently of each other meaning that where both squads were needed to flank in the last game you can pull the same move with a single fire team and if you get into a good enough spot you can pretty much lock down any scenario with this tactic using both fire teams split into four. The movement totally replaces the bounding motion from the first game and now you have to split the team and assign them a fire vector before manually doing the same for the other half of the team. While this is similar to the first game majority of the other mechanics are barely similar or weren’t in the original game. For starters using squad member specific actions like the M203 from the grenadier or the suppression form the M249 automatic rifleman require you to select them specifically, ensure they have line of sight and aim their abilities at the enemy. This means that you can’t just plant team leaders at a corner and it’ll all work out anymore, more tactics and thought are needed in your positions this time around. On the subject of squad abilities, we have a totally new mechanic to play with in this department that is shared between the team leader and the rifleman, precision fire. Precision fire is a sniper shot that allows that team member to hit a target normally in cover so long as a portion of their body is exposed. Whereas in the previous game you had to use grenades and flanking to get these guys you can now take a shot from your fixed position. There is a price for this though and it’s that the firing squad mate is completely exposed to enemy fire while he lines up the shot so using this on close enemies and entrenched positions is a big no no.
another new feature that Ten Hammers brings to the table is additional squads, you’ll have noticed if you played the previous game that you occasionally got a ‘Charlie’ team to command, normally no bigger than one or two extra men and required for a certain objectives completion. This time around these squads will have way more uses and be way more fun because Pandemic decided to give you reign over some cool toys like an APC, a sniper squad with a Barett 50. Rifle and a bunch of other cool bits and pieces. These squads will appear sparingly in some missions and allow your teams the often much needed extra firepower the situation demands they have. Commanding the APC around is great fun and watching the small arms fire just bounce off you gives you that real feeling of invincibility when advancing… little less so when the enemy whips the RPG out… then all that armour doesn’t mean jack. gameplay has seen such a massive overhaul since the first game but even with that there are some issues here and would you have known in a shooter … its hit detection >__> namely your hit detection. As much as its more refined for you to get the enemy it’s also more refined for them to get you and often all it takes is for your team lead to be millimetres out of cover and suddenly you’re in a world of hurt which leads directly into the next issue. The system for retrieving downed soldiers has changed and is more cumbersome than before now you don’t get the basic hover over downed tool to pick him up, it’s a held click but the problem is that it doesn’t always work. It has moment’s where you’re out in the open and with no obstructions and you just can’t get the guy off the ground. It makes what was a serious and tense moment in the previous game a really annoying and tedious feature of this game often resulting in a restart more often than a recovery of the soldier…
ok so in the end of the game we see Daniels get left behind but there’s a reason I covered all that first because the first chapter which also doubles as the games training missions reveals the fate of the great Sgt Daniels. Shock horror is that Daniels does NOT survive the gunfight at the OK Corral in the end of the game and we know this beforehand because the first chapter sees us find the poor guy dead in a shed at the end of it. So now we know that Daniels does indeed pull an Obi wan and sacrifices himself to save the many… at least that’s how it ended. Pretty sure he was hoping your team would come save him and you just can’t move fast enough to make that happen … I done tried. The chapter is strong though and as I went over above it does get used to provide a pretty strong introduction to the games new mechanics and showpieces. Looking at the story as a singular entity I must say it’s a vast improvement on the previous game and that is mainly because there actually is one this time. it’s not just scenarios all loosely thrown together but instead a tale that has a beginning, middle and end and it drives the gameplay nicely to that end. I do wish the game had a bit more length to it in honest. It’s longer than the previous game but just seems not long enough. Maybe I’ve just been tainted by playing huge games a lot lately and I have grown accustomed to the lengthy play time.
Roundup time! Ten Hammers in a nutshell is everything I wanted in the sequel to Full Spectrum Warrior and more but with that they made some mistakes here that really should have been avoided, the issues with the soldiers getting rescued is just annoying, it worked so well in the last game and this time it’s just tedious… the game brings a wave of new mechanics and ideas to the table and we thankfully get some story to sink our teeth into this time around that gives the gameplay more weight, better progression and an overall more fulfilling sense that we are achieving something as we trudge through these Zekistan streets! The game isn’t flawless though and there are the hit detection issues, the unnecessary overcomplication of some actions but it all balances out in the end. When this game first got pushed out it barely scored above a 7/10 and I hate assigning a numerical score to this but I feel that great but not amazing ballpark is really where this sits. The games got a lot going for itself but frankly it still falls back on that dad simulator war game that a younger audience not already a fan of the style may find hard to get into. In my honest opinion, it’s worth a play through to enjoy the experience of a different kind of shooter but whether the story and mechanics are for you is a bit more of a grey area